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UK-Switzerland deal is soft on British tax evaders, say campaigners

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‘The message is clear: there is no hiding place for tax cheats,’ David Gauke declared yesterday. The Exchequer Secretary said constructive discussions with the Swiss Government had secured ‘the best possible deal for UK taxpayers’. But critics have slammed the deal, arguing that it is ‘soft’ on thousands of British tax evaders.

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Nicholas Shaxson, author of Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men who Stole the World, told the BBC’s Today programme that the UK was making an ‘enormous concession to give impunity to a bunch of people who have been committing tax crimes in Switzerland’.

Richard Murphy, Director of Tax Research, said the agreement would ‘let thousands of wealthy tax criminals off the hook without them ever being held to account or even having to admit to their crimes’.

‘What we know for sure is that most money held in Switzerland got their illicitly – it was not taxed before its arrival in the Alps. It’s tax evaded money,’ he wrote.


The deal amounts to ‘collusion with criminality’, and will seriously damage poor countries’ attempts to collect ‘the billions they lose to tax dodgers,’ Christian Aid said.

‘This deal makes it much less likely that developing countries will ever be able to get the taxes owed to them from those hiding money in tax havens like Switzerland. It is a disgrace,’ said Christian Aid Director Loretta Minghella.

‘Why would anyone rather pay a back tax of 19 to 34% on the money they have hidden in Switzerland than reveal their identity, unless they have done something seriously wrong? And why is the Government letting them get away so lightly?’

The most likely reason, she suggested, is that ‘they have evaded a whole lot more tax than that or been involved in other serious criminal behaviour’.

Global Financial Integrity said last week that a broader, global solution to illicit financial practices and banking secrecy was needed.  

‘The recent agreement to remit information on secret Swiss accounts with Germany was a spot-check fix,’ said GFI Director Raymond Baker. ‘The Swiss are handing over money and some account information without making substantive changes to a system that puts tax collection and law enforcement officials at a disadvantage.’